Opinion

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 2

You can find Part 1 of this series here.

In last week’s installment, we discussed Harley Quinn’s history, and her deep connection with abuse. This week, we speak to cosplayers about their connections to the character. Trigger warning: this article discusses abuse specifically.

“I do have a history with an abusive boyfriend,” cosplayer Misses J Quinn told us. “I feel very connected to Harley because of this. It is not a healthy relationship. I think no one deserves to experience an abusive relationship.” She wasn’t alone.

Cosplayer Zoe Anderson said, “It goes all the way back to living at home and watching my parents do the same thing that I would see repeated. You might say I had become desensitized or, perhaps even blind to what was considered abuse. I’d let my boyfriend smack me around, blame things on me, cheat on me, and more.” Her understanding of the connection between her and the character wasn’t obvious to her. “As I saw glimpses of her past home life and then looking in at my personal relationships I could definitely see it. The more I looked at it, the more the two seemed to blend together, and I was desperate for a way to express this.” For Anderson, that expression was cosplay. “Cosplay has definitely given me a way to healthily express myself. It is something that helps my mental well-being and it does make me feel pretty damn good all around. All you get is compliments.”

This sentiment was echoed by several cosplayers, including Becca Payne, who told us, “Cosplaying makes me feel like who I am on the inside and to me, that is healthy.” Savannah Kelly said, “I think that cosplay should be judgment free and should include everyone who is willing to put the effort into cosplaying.”

Becka Taka Cosplay tells us cosplay was important to her ability to manage her depression, and Harley Quinn was a part of it. “I was months into the worst depressive period of my life. There was a cosplay function being held in the area on my birthday and I forced myself to attend. I ran around as a princess, then later (a few drinks later) changed into a cute Harley themed dress, complete with mismatched shoes, mask and poofy pigtailed wig. I think my extreme love for her was born then. I mean how can you NOT have a good time dressed as her?”

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Taka’s story echo’s many of the elements of the 1994 Mad Love story. “I immediately felt a connection, like the world stopped for a moment when I met him. He was more than a little shy but we could talk for hours. He was damaged. He had led a hard life and it was like I came into his for a reason. Like the idiot empath I am, I felt his pain. I wanted to heal him. I foolishly thought ‘He just needs someone to love him.’ I honestly thought I was that person. The rest was a whirlwind of passion, late nights talking, him needing me, me needing to be needed… It has been said that when you look at the world(or a lover) with rose tinted glasses, that all the red flags look like just… flags. Nothing, could be closer to the truth. I was warned by friends. I was begged to stop what I was doing. But I was under his spell and it was a powerful one at that.”

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“The day we signed the lease, was almost exactly the day he changed into a monster. You see, he had gotten exactly what he wanted. He lived in a shitty room, in a shitty part of town and wanted nothing more than to get out. I was also desperate for a place to live and either intentionally, or not, I was made into his victim.”

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What followed was also similar to Harleen’s story, one of first mental and emotional control that became abuse, and then abuse that became physical. “I absolutely feel a connection to Harley because of my past. Here you have a character who is at the pinnacle of her career, beautiful, athletic(she was a gymnast) and getting the opportunity to study one of Gotham’s most notorious criminals at the Arkham Asylum. Before I met the man that brought my life to a screeching halt, I was confident, at a healthy weight, and planning a career in either Vegas or Atlanta. After he got in my head, I was driven to near madness. I completely lost sight of the well adjusted person I once was before I met my abuser, yet much like Harley, kept coming back again and again for more abuse.”

While disturbing, Taka’s history is not unusual. Of the cosplayers we interviewed, 90% said that they had some history of abuse, be it physical, emotional, or mental. Our interviews were 80% female, 20% male. These numbers have little to do with cosplay, and instead mirror national statistics. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, approximately 7 million women in the U.S. are assaulted or raped by a current or former partner each year. Love is Respect reports 43% of dating college women and 28% of men reported experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors in a relationship.

“I was a stupid teenager that fell in love for dumb reasons and let myself get caught up in that relationship because it was there and I’ve always had self-confidence issues when it comes to feeling wanted and loved,” said Crazy Clover Cosplay. “I’ll admit that I have felt a closer connection to Harley after going through what I did, though my past relationships could never hold a candle to what many others have gone through in their lives. It isn’t even close to Harley and the Joker.” So, is fiction, and by extension playing out your favorite fictional character, a danger or catharsis?

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The idea that abuse survivors could find familiarity and strength in a character like Harley Quinn is not new, and it is often the opposing response to criticism of the popularity of the character and her portrayal. Harley Quinnsane, a cosplayer and roller derby girl, says, “She brought me into the cosplaying world. She helped me find an identifier.” Shauna Lynn, the youngest of our interviews, would probably be placed in the demographic that romanticized merchandise is geared to. She said, “The main thing that appealed to me is that Harley Quinn is such a sweet girl who is over her head over someone who abuses her. I feel like I can relate to her because all people ever want is to be loved and I feel that Harley learns she needs to be strong for herself.”

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The fall of Harleen Quinzel into Harley Quinn may seem familiar to some victims. “I adore both Harley and Joker purely for the fact I feel they are the way real love is portrayed. And no I don’t mean with the physical abuse or even the mental, I mean in the sense that you take this innocent woman, a woman who was going to accomplish good things until she fell in love,” said Becca Payne. “You have all these fairy-tales and stories that push the fact that true love conquers all, that it’s the most amazing and great feeling in the world and once you have it, you have it forever. Their love isn’t the type of love you grew up reading about, they didn’t push the fact that love is your happy ending.”

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The debate between fictional violence creating real violence has been going on forever, and we aren’t about to start digging into that. We also aren’t going to get into a discussion about whether or not the Joker genuinely loves Harley; it’s an entire conversation to itself and has been handled with plenty of panels and screenshots before. What can be said is that domestic violence in fiction has been said to provide understanding about domestic abuse in everyday life.

Crazy Clover Cosplay tells us, “it gives us a look into a world that we might not ever know, but I believe that by appreciating stories that involve these kinds of things and growing to love the characters in them, we can learn greater compassion and love and appreciation for those in the real world that have experienced these things.”

Becky Taka Cosplay believes it can provide a way for others to understand abuse in relationships. “While sometimes it seems that the Joker actually cares for Harley, a true sociopath is not able to express empathy, and that fact is unfortunately very frightening because it is very real. Even if someone hasn’t experienced an abusive relationship firsthand, maybe reading or watching the situations that arise between the two characters, could serve to help raise awareness of those issues.” These characters may be garish and do ridiculous, completely unreal things; they literally dress like clowns. However, that doesn’t mean that their relationship can’t feel real, and their actions don’t mirror real life violence on a human level.

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Next week, we continue our three part series on cosplay and fictional abuse. Stay tuned.

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 2

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 1

Suicide Squad is the most successful August movie in history and it brought many characters unfamiliar to non-comic audiences to the front of pop culture conversation. In the wake of all the buzz, more people than ever are asking “who is Harley Quinn?” Almost anyone with a little geek knowledge can tell you she’s the Joker’s moll, but it’s a much more complicated question than that, fraught with questions of morality, violence, romanticization, sexualization, and perhaps most of all, love. We took the time out to really analyze these issues by viewing them through the lens of what turned out to be a surprisingly large section of comics audiences: Harley Quinn fans who also identified as victims of abuse.

Few characters capture the imagination of on-screen and comic audiences quite like the Joker. He is the longest-standing comic villain and has the most iterations of any of Batman’s rogue gallery, from the big screen to the small. Since the popularity of Batman: The Animated Series, fans have found pleasure in pairing the Clown Prince of Crime with a partner: Harley Quinn. Originally intended to be a one-off henchwoman, Harley was written by Paul Dini and designed by Bruce Timm in 1992. Quinn only appeared in nine episodes to her beau’s 15, but her iconic appearance, personality, and voice has lived on for over 20 years. Quinn has found herself the star of multiple spin-off comics and found further success in the New 52. For comic fans, Harley may be DC’s brightest star. For cosplayers, the Joker and Harley Quinn have found themselves to be two of the most-imitated characters in the Batverse. This success, however, isn’t without it’s critics.

The characters do not have what anyone in their right mind would call a healthy relationship. Harleen Quinzel became Harley Quinn to appease the man she loved, a love most would agree is built around Joker’s manipulation and Harley’s attraction to the psychologically extreme. In 1994’s “Mad Love”, their relationship was explored and given both a back story and a bottom line: love is not always kind, or sane. Harley was a young, capable doctor with no history of crime or mental issues prior to meeting Mr. J. Joker throws Harley out a window, and all it takes is a note attached to some flowers sent to her hospital room to take Harley from “never again” to “whenever he wants.”

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Harley’s standalone comics have seen her pairing up (read: sometimes shacking up) with other DC characters, with Poison Ivy often stepping in to fill the clown’s squeaky shoes. Ivy occasionally perpetuates her own brand of manipulation, but she is definitely more of a straight shooter, and is shown to both outwardly care for and reciprocate the feelings of Quinn. In other words, since her inception, Harley has been familiar with abuse, mental, emotional, and physical.

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That isn’t to say that Harley doesn’t do her own share of violent things to the ones she cares for. Joker may often take the prize at “most manipulative,” but Harley was a gymnast, and has shown herself to be a capable foe physically. She is also  powered up by Ivy in both the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Harley and Ivy” and during “No Man’s Land”, gaining extra strength and agility as well as an immunity to poisons. When the Joker sets her off, it isn’t the Dark Knight she is taking out her aggression on.

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So, who would find these two appealing? Apparently, a lot of DC’s audience. Harley and Joker as a pair are some of the most sought after DC collectibles, and Alex Ross’ recent work, titled “Mind If I Cut In?” depicts the couple seconds after the Caped Crusader steps in on their now-classic pose. The print goes for upwards of $900 dollars and fans seem willing to spend it. Retail stores like Hot Topic sell merchandise of both “Mad Love” and Alex Ross’ work, as well as other products that depict the particularly toxic duo’s relationship as something to be admired.

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This depiction, as well as countless works of fan art and fiction, has drawn criticism from those who feel that the relationship and it’s romanticization is a detriment to readers. Opposing remarks can be found about couples who cosplay as the grinning lovers. Detractors say that romanticizing the two is a detriment to those who have had abusive relationships, and that cosplay is idolization of a dangerous, problematic pairing. Some have went as far as to say that, if you do not have a history of abuse, you can’t enjoy them.

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Negative representations of relationships skewed to be romantic aren’t new. Romeo and Juliet have been criticized for pushing dangerous versions of love since long before New York accents and definitely prior to Paul Dini giving one to a girl dressed like a harlequin. “There is tons of violence in Shakespeare, there is nothing wrong with enjoying/appreciating it because it is  just art. Just like comics are art,” said Andrew Arkham Cosplay.

So, who are these fans? How do these people deal with the idea that their beloved couple might be a poor example for relationships? We spoke to Joker and Harley cosplayers about their interest in the characters, their history with relationships, and if, and where, the two meet. Trigger warning for anyone reading who might find discussions of abuse, both mental and physical difficult, as this is a discussion with abuse victims about their experience and the ways in which they have found to deal with their past.

Next week, we continue our series of interviews with cosplayers and dive into the world of fictional abuse and it’s significance in real world affinity for characterization. Tune in Monday for more.

Psycho Killers and the Women Who Love Them: Harley Quinn, Abuse, and Cosplay Pt 1

We’re Being Bad Fans

I feel something needs to be said. This past year has been incredibly cool when it comes to films. We’ve seen our favorite heroes go toe-to-toe, fist-to-fist in epic battles we only dreamed of as children. We’ve seen beloved franchises reinvented to reflect different audiences. We’ve seen the limits of CGI technology pushed with video game adaptions. We’ve seen C-list characters pulled to the forefront for our viewing pleasure. And yet, they each seem to get trash talked and panned before the opening weekend is even over. It’s time we’re called out: we are bad fans.

If you haven’t caught my drift I’m specifically speaking of the insanity that is the DC backlash (and subsequently the Ghostbusters hate and Warcraft ire.) And it is insanity. Don’t believe me? Here are some excerpts from reviews found online. You tell me if they’ve gone too far.

Harley Quinn’s character is the strongest proof that this movie, for all its rebellious posturing, is nothing but business as usual. Full review
A. O. Scott·The New York Times
On paper, this could have been the antidote to an increasingly codified strain of comic-book movies, but in the end, it’s just another high-attitude version of the same. Full review
Peter Debruge·Variety
As storytelling, Suicide Squad is the worst of the worst, but it’s no different in kind from the best of the best. This is all just high-priced junk.Full review
David Edelstein·Vulture
How, you might ask, is it possible to so thoroughly suck the joy out of a story that features a guy who can shoot flames out of his hands (Jay Hernandez, as Diablo)? Full review
Michael O’Sullivan·Washington Post

Giant. Eye roll. Seriously, my eyes can’t roll hard enough. What do I mean by this? We’re spoiled by great films, and so now, we expect EVERY film to produce greatness. Instead we should be focused on having fun and enjoying finally seeing our childhoods come to life. Now if I sound a little angry, it’s because I am. It’s disheartening to see what you love just completely berated over and over until everyone is in this cesspool of bitterness and elitism.  That’s not how I want my movies anymore.

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How can we better ourselves?

Well, I have a few ideas…

Remember where we come from 

Movies of the 80’s and 90’s ranged from glorious cinematic works (remember Ghostbusters?) and cheesy balls of crap (remember Ghostbusters 2?).  Big movie hits were immediately transformed into exploited franchises with board games, cereal, action figures, cartoons, drinks, etc. But we didn’t care! We loved having more and more content! It was a franchise utopia!

The late 90’s and early 2000’s kind of did away with that. There weren’t as many franchises and there definitely wasn’t the same amount of merchandising as before. It was a dark time (but produced some of the best thrillers and indie flicks.) Now we’re all old and cynical and we have forgotten where we’ve come from. Mufasa would be disappointed in all of us.  An invigoration into our childhood loves have been started. New adaptations of obscurities we’ve long loved are finally seeing the light.  Why wouldn’t you give it a chance? Why wouldn’t you embrace it? This, right now, is what we loved as kids. They weren’t anymore genuine or righteous as they are now. Companies created these franchise empires to make money off of our never-ending desires to obtain more stuff. That’s what they’re doing now, so we might as well enjoy it with the same amount of love as before.

Open your minds the way you did when you were 8. The world will seem a little brighter that way.Suicide-Squad-movie-poster-3-e1469110045944

Everyone IS NOT a critic


We are also not filmmakers, editors, directors, screen writers, actors, or what have you. This is something we should all keep in mind and is an overall good rule for life. You have your opinions, and they’re unique. Often times, there is a huge chance that your experiences can enrich someone’s life. That no longer remains true when you disparage someone or something.  When your only critique is an insult, that’s not a critique. It’s just as easy to say, “hey, this wasn’t for me. I didn’t enjoy it because of XYZ.” None of that is tearing down or preventing others from making their own judgments.

To be a little more blunt, there’s also a good chance that when you review a game, movie, album, your opinion isn’t going to matter unless you’re being paid for it (see above.) I didn’t pull the random hate quotes off Twitter or Facebook, because those aren’t published reviews paying someone’s bills. Those posts can be equated to your old high school friend’s new baby pictures or your uncle’s misunderstanding of social media. Those opinions are lost in the void of voices. While you want yours to be heard, it’s not going to matter without some sustenance to back it up.  Saying that goes against the “we are all special” motto, but we are not all professional critics. Until then, people are going to be more concerned with what professionals say or what the biggest fans think.

Stop comparing apples to oranges


I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before. If not, it means two dissimilar objects shouldn’t be compared. Specifically, I’m talking about the fans constantly comparing the DC movies to the Marvel movies.  I understand that’s difficult to do, but please hear me out.  The two companies have been compared since their beginnings and will continue to be compared until their demise.  Has that ever made anyone better off, though?  What do we ultimately get from that but disappointment? It was fun when it was “Who would win in a fight, A or B?” but it has grown beyond that as a way to insult the films, specifically the DC ones.

As a mainly Marvel girl, I’ve been on board with them from the beginning (and I’m not talking the MCU beginning, I’m talking as far back as Blade.) I loved them and I watched them all the time, but I’ve never thought they’ve created perfect, untouchable films. If I had the chance, I’d redo every single X-Men movie from head to toe.  I want them to continue making movies because I’ve loved what they have created and want to see where they’re going. For those exact same reasons, I want the same for DC.

DC has arguably the best, most prolific pop culture characters in their grasp and have produced multiple iterations of these characters both in the cinematic and written form. Seeing them in any form should be considered bona fide proof that there are millions out there that love these things as much as you.  In no way do I want the two companies to mimic each other. The worlds should be different. They are not the same in written form and they should not be the same in cinematic form either.

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Keep an open mind

If you want to hate something, so badly that you openly ridicule it before it’s even available, you’re probably going to hate it.  The same thing is true for the opposite. Keeping an open mind isn’t easy but it’s worth it. You’re able to see a product for what it really is, and in the case of Suicide Squad that would be a decent movie which was a lot of fun. It is not without faults, it is not a perfect film by any means, but it did its job. It got people interested in the characters. Everyone I’ve talked to wants to know more about the characters, whether or not they liked the movie.

So now what?

I don’t know. I just want to enjoy things without abuse. I want everyone to do that. I want the nerdrage to subside. I want to stop seeing “Anyone who likes X is stupid” posts. It’s not edgy. It’s not blue. It’s not even a little funny. It’s discouraging. I want the world to know that I want to see content adaptations and universe building, and I’m not alone. I want these fandoms to grow and thrive and create new fans.  I hope you do too.

We’re Being Bad Fans

Shin Godzilla – Kaiju done right

It seems that 2016 has been a year of huge potential with mixed results, many tent pole films and many more reactions to them. This could simply all be down to the source material: characters with per-existing histories and fan bases that make it difficult for studios, directors, and actors to please. All this aside, it has been an emotional roller coaster of a year for fandom film goes.

Earlier this year when I posted an article about this summer’s Godzilla movie and how it was going to be done by the original studio that created the character, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely excited. What has also had many  of us fans very excited, and also a little concerned, was that this newest film was going to be a complete reboot – and it wasn’t going going down the retelling route.

For those of you who may not be Godzilla fans, there are some things that have always been canon in the Godzilla mythos: his origin, what he is, when he appeared. Like Superman or Captain America’s origins, there are some things about the big G that have been sacred to fans all around the world. But when the original studio decides to reboot the franchise itself and it acknowledges it is going to be a modern and very different retelling of the origin story…you need to have faith, but you can’t help but feel a little concerned too.

Our faith was rewarded, because they delivered.

Purple may be a new look, but it looks good

Purple may be a new look, but it looks good. The violet color is actually symbolic of death in Japanese culture.

The overwhelming consensus from from western fans who were lucky enough to see the film in Japan and those from the home nation of Japan, is that the film, while different, was masterfully done.  It has also been highlighted on many sites posting reviews of the film. The Japanese members of the fandom are usually the harshest critics out there – and yet so far they are the biggest supporters.

But it gets better…..this Godzilla is coming to the USA. Funimation, the company that distributes other Japanese media in the United States (the Dragonball franchise for example), has announced that Shin Godzilla will be coming to the USA for a theatrical release in late 2016. No date yet on that release, but with roughly four months left in 2016, you will not have long to wait.

Look away if you want to be spoiler free as I will be giving a rough synopsis of the plot. There is also one spoiler image as well, so if you want to save yourself a legitimately fun surprise, best to wait it out.

The film opens with some mysterious problems occurring in Tokyo Bay. Before you can say “I think it’s a monster” an enormous tail appears in the bay. This is right off the bat in the film and it takes no time to build up a threat. Godzilla is here and it really starts to hit the fan quickly. This is quite the refreshing change from other Godzilla films and it addresses one of the key fan complaints against the 2014 Hollywood outing.

The other thing that I should mention is that Godzilla doesn’t seem quite himself….spoiler image coming up folks…..

He evolves during the course of the film…

dramatically…

…more than once….

 

The first two forms of Shin Godzilla

The first two forms of Shin Godzilla – these are Bandai figures. As of yet no official pictures have surfaced online with as much detail.

The Proto-Godzilla does what Godzillas do best and starts running riot. It is here where the film starts to show some of its true colors. We go to rooms full of Japan’s government representatives as they stare in disbelief at what they are seeing and try to manage some kind of response.

I should mention that Godzilla originally served as a commentary for the current state of affairs in Japan and in this first reboot since the original film, the studio stayed true to that idea. The theme of politicians talking and debating until they are forced to act is a reoccurring plot point in the film and while a few fans have complained that the amount of time spent on this element could have been shortened, I think that this issue the film highlights couldn’t be any more current. The Japanese representatives spend a lot of time arguing about what should and can be done, but by the time they are able to come up with a plan…the problem has shifted sideways on them. Godzilla changes for his second time (the second form is pretty unnerving to look at by the way).

So at about this time, the USA comes into the movie. The US military helps the Japanese have a go at the walking disaster that seems to love populated areas, but nobody seems to be getting anywhere against the monster using conventional weapons, much to the concern of the US.

Then, Godzilla evolves into his third and final appearance of the film, the one we have been seeing in all of the trailers and lets just say he packs a mean punch.

Tension starts to reach a critical point when the US representative tells the Japanese that they have a deadline to sort this monster business out or it’s nukes away. Say what you will about the political undertones, it definitely ratchets up the tension.

I will not give away more after that because what comes next is crucial to the climax of the film. However, lets just say that the film ends with something of a cliff hanger and what I think is a pretty interesting way to finish the movie which will no doubt be the first installment in a series of new Godzilla films.

And a new series there will certainly be, with this movie already being almost twice as successful as the 2014 Hollywood Godzilla during its opening weekend in Japan. It would seem unlikely in this day and age that a sequel not be made.

So for those of you who would be considered “Western Audiences”, you may have to wait a little while for him to get to you, but this Godzilla is coming your way and if it’s one thing we all know – good things are worth waiting for.

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So how about it folks? Are you excited to see this new Godzilla? Will you see it in the US theaters?

Are you more excited to see where this version of the Godzilla franchise is going or the US one?

Comment below!

Shin Godzilla – Kaiju done right

Pixar Films – A Ranking Part 1

With Pixar’s Finding Dory finally in theaters, it’s time for us to rank the existing 17 Pixar films. If you’re curious about our take on Finding Dory, head over to our spoiler-free review here. Pixar has been warming our hearts and challenging our emotions since the 1995 release of Toy Story. Since then, we’ve seen their computer generated animated features advance and progress to the level of receiving nominations for Best Picture at the Academy Awards for both Toy Story 3 and Up. In total, Pixar has won 13 Academy Awards across 16 films. In fact, we’ve loved Pixar movies so much that we’ve even given them a pass from time to time, like in the case of Cars 2. We get it, sometimes you just want to pay the bills and sells tons of toys. We forgive you since you brought us Inside Out.

So with all of that in mind, here is my attempt at ranking the existing Pixar films. Like we do with other franchises and movie universes (yes, some of us believe all of the Pixar films are somehow connected), we will keep this list updated as more movies come out.

In Part 1, I get through 17-9 with 8-1 in Part 2 coming soon!

17. Cars 2

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Okay, do I need to go into detail here? It’s a sequel of Pixar’s merchandising grab film and it’s not even done as well. I’ll save everyone some time and just move on. If you think this one should be ranked higher, please comment below.

16. Cars

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While better than the sequel, this movie just doesn’t do it for me. I’m used to Pixar films that create incredible universes within our own, complex stories and characters that push the viewer emotionally and psychologically. As I noted earlier, some people, myself included, like to believe all of the Pixar films fit together and while there is a pretty outlandish theory about how Cars fits in, I don’t buy it. This film takes the easy way out by ignoring the rules of our own world, something they had to deal with in A Bug’s Life, Ratatouille, and Toy Story. Those challenges made for better story telling and more complex environment.

15. Monsters University

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Pixar had incredible success with the Toy Story sequels and decided to try something different, a prequel. The movie includes the charm of both John Goodman and Billy Crystal but much like Men in Black II, it loses much of its awe and originality. Many of the new characters were cute but it seemed like a step back from the first film which included a larger universe and dealt with the consequences of actions on both the Monster and human worlds. In the end, this film falls into a common trap of prequels. Most people, like me, want to see the story continue, see the effects of the first film. Whether or not these monsters had official training didn’t really stick with me as a need to know concept.

14. A Bug’s Life

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Alright, so it’s Pixar’s second movie. It premiered three years after Toy Story. Special effects hadn’t really progressed much in that time but Pixar continued with a similar formula. I did love how they created this great little bug universe within our own. This forced the film makers to work within the constraints of our world while giving life to something new. The voice cast was strong with Kevin Spacey playing a solid villain. I also enjoyed Julia Louis-Dreyfus, though I am a huge Seinfeld and Veep fan. The truth is though, the thing that sticks with me most from this movie is actually the short before it, Geri’s Game in which an old man plays chess with himself. It’s brilliant, fun, entertaining, and I fell in love with the character. Part of me even sees this old man as an alternate or early version of Carl from Up. Let’s not forget that this short also won Best Animated Short at the Academy Awards that year. It’s only one of three Pixar shorts to do this, the other two being Tin Toy and For the Birds from Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. respectively.

13. Brave

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This movie never stuck with me and I’m actually ranking it higher than I think I should because the animation was really well done. The story didn’t grab me and I found the premise to be a little silly more often than not. And yes, I know we’re talking about animated kids’ films. The whole daughter wants to do her own thing… thing was nothing new and the spin of her mom turning into a bear just didn’t interest me. I am too used to Pixar doing new things in new worlds and/or pushing my emotions to the extreme. This movie does none of this but does handle the animation well enough. The hair is cool and all but I was more impressed with the balloons in Up and the fuzzy fur stuff on the emotions in Inside Out.

12. The Good Dinosaur

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Okay, so I think this might be the only Pixar film outside of the Cars movies, I didn’t see in theaters. It just didn’t happen and neither did its box office numbers. I guess I feel very similar to that. This movie is fine. The story is good and reminded me quite a bit of The Land Before Time. I liked the story, for the most part, but I felt like just too many annoying bad things kept happening to Arlo. This movie gets bumped up quite a bit though because of how awesome the animation is. It’s superb and deserves to be noticed. The scenery, the water, the textures, just outstanding across the board. That being said, it’s not enough to save the movie that included a VERY predictable story. I mean, was anyone surprised when Poppa died the way he did? No? The moment he takes Arlo into that field at night with the fireflies, I knew that man was a goner. And he ended up dying in almost the exact same way as Mufasa in The Lion King, except no acting antagonist did it. It’s just kind of Arlo’s fault. The universe they built was okay but I would have liked a larger picture like we got in Monsters Inc. Where are the other dinosaurs? No predators? Friends? Neighbors? Just one family in the middle of no where. I, of course, am not referring to those Arlo finds on his journey but I guess maybe everyone is just on the other side of the mountain.

11. Ratatouille

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This movie has a decent enough cast and does a solid job of creating the mouse world within our own. The animation is solid with colorful and fun characters. The food was also done well. It’s a cute story and Linguini is a cute character. I enjoyed Remy and the relationships he had with his family. All-in-all, it’s a cute, fun film that doesn’t tax much on the emotional spectrum. It doesn’t quite crack the Top 10 and I think this is due to its lack of emotional punch and/or technical prowess. It doesn’t push any boundaries.. Keep in mind that the movies above it are all spectacular and a couple have even received Best Picture nominations at the Academy Awards. I like this movie and find it enjoyable. It’s just not one I look forward to viewing time and time again.

10. Finding Dory

Finding Dory Definition

Since this one is so new, I’ll try to avoid spoilers. In short, this movie takes some of our favorite characters from the first film and basically makes them do it all over again but this time for Dory. The plot is very similar to the first film but the characters and voice cast are spot on. I love these characters, even all of the new ones. Ed O’Neil’s Hank is great, Destiny and Bailey are fun too. I love them all. Dory’s story, which we get to see from a very young age, is touching and heartwarming. It hits the emotions hard a few times and does a great job building on the universe created in the first film. With that said, it is a bit repetitive. I mean, it’s almost the same story as the last one. Additionally, some of the antics at the end literally had me thinking “Really?!?” It was over the top at times. I will say this, the short film Piper is awesome. It’s a cute and lovely story but the animation is unbelievable. The sand, the water, the foam. It all looks real and I’m completely impressed by it. Anyway, if you liked Finding Nemo, then you’ll want to see this movie. If not, then it doesn’t really do anything different.

9. Toy Story 2

Toy Story 2 Logo

I have a hard time putting this one so low. I love this movie and I love what it does to add to the first film’s universe. We get to learn so much about Woody and our favorite characters all get to have an exciting adventure that includes Zurg! And tell me Jessie’s story is heartbreaking! Talk about the feels. Pixar does this well and it is important that they continue to do so. The story is fun, new, inventive, and brings in new characters and old that we will continue to love to this very day. I don’t have anything bad to say about this one. It’s great fun with some emotion built in. The animation sticks true to the Toy Story style which is great but doesn’t really push any boundaries.

Okay, that’s it for Part 1! What did you think of my ranking so far? Do you agree or disagree? Comment below! Also, stay tuned for Part 2 where I finish up my ranking with the top 8 spots!

Pixar Films – A Ranking Part 1

Top 10 John Williams Star Wars themes

John Williams has scored some of the most iconic movies in cinematic history. He is beyond talented and extremely brilliant. Now we all know a movie isn’t complete without an awesome sounding score to accompany it. Imagine Jaws, Harry Potter, Superman, or Indiana Jones without those beautiful and much needed pieces of music. The same can be said for any of the seven Star Wars films. John Williams has scored and created many themes for many different movies over his carrier. But none are more popular than the music from the Star Wars films. Any fan of these movies will have their own Top 10 list for themes. It was very hard to pick only ten. But without further ado:

10. “Across the Stars” (Love theme from Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith)

Let’s kick things off with a little forbidden romance shall we? This is the theme we hear whenever Padme and Anakin are seen on screen and as they share their first kiss with each other. I think it’s a beautiful theme full of passion and joy. It is one of two love themes that John Williams has created for the Star Wars films and here is hoping he creates a few more with Episodes VIII and IX on the way.

9. “Anakin’s Betrayal” (Order 66 theme)

This theme is played out in Revenge of the Sith when the order is given to all the clone commanders and their troops to execute the Jedi across the galaxy. It’s a particular moving piece because it is one of the saddest moments in the prequel trilogy and unlike anything we have seen before in a Star Wars film. Seeing countless Jedi gunned down or shot out of the skies was heartbreaking to see, not to mention the slaughtering of the younglings by Anakin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmhjaFbpkIE

8. “Ben Kenobi’s Death / Tie Fighter Attack”

One of the more thrilling themes from Episode IV is right after the death of Obi-Wan when Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of the crew jump in the Falcon to escape the Death Star hanger to then only be pursued by a squad of Tie Fighters. The suspense leading up to the Tie Fighters approaching, to Luke and Han taking to the laser cannons on the Falcon to blast them away is like one big adrenaline rush. A small and quick scene compared to most on this list, but it sure packs a punch.

7. “The Battle of Endor I”

I picked Part 1 from the rest of the pieces from this battle is because of this heart pounding opening. It’s goes from suspenseful and quiet to loud and dramatic when the Rebel fleet realizes the shield to the Death Star is still operational. Chaos ensues as Lando leads the attack in space, Han and Leia along with the droids and help from the Ewoks lead the ground battles, and Luke is forced to watch the Rebel fleet get pulverized in space as Vader and his Master look on. And of course as always…IT’S A TRAP!

6. “Cantina Band”

Of course we can’t have a Top 10 list like this without having the “Cantina Band” theme in here somewhere! This is just a really fun theme to hear and grove along with. It is a departure from the heavy brass and strings we normally are used to in Star Wars films and John Williams gives a nice light feeling to this space opera.

5. “Duel of Fates”

This theme still gives me chills to this day. I remember being in the theater and when the doors opened to reveal Darth Maul standing there and then the choir kicked in was haunting. This piece had been something we haven’t heard before in the previous trilogy of films. With three new films for a new generation of fans, John Williams had to revamp the scores a bit for these. Nothing was ever this fast paced with choirs and brass combined in the original trilogy. A very intense track from the prequel trilogy and the best piece of music from Episode I by far.

4. “Han and Leia’s Theme”

A love theme for the ages. This was the very first love theme we got out of the Star Wars movies and boy did John Williams deliver. This is a soft and beautiful piece used to show the affections between Princess Leia and Han Solo. First heard in The Empire Strikes Back and continued on through Return of the Jedi and finally heard again in The Force Awakens, the fans always know when this plays on the screen we will get some kind of interaction between the couple, whether it’s them fighting or saying “I love you” is a different story.

3. “Rey’s Theme”

The number three spot is taken by my favorite theme from The Force Awakens and that is of course “Rey’s Theme”. I think it is one of the best character themes in the saga. John Williams really gives you a sense of adventure, hope, strength, wonder, and curiosity all mixed into one theme and that perfectly describes Rey in the film. It has been compared to Luke’s theme or the “Force” theme from the rest of the films as well which is something I can totally see.

2. “The Force Theme” ( Also known as Luke’s theme)

Speaking of Luke and the Force, here is my number two pick. This theme can be found in every single Star Wars film and TV show to date. It is universally known to the fans as the theme that surrounds almost anything to do with the use of the Force or the good guys in general. It is a great theme and is a very emotional and powerful theme at that. It’s known that the Force binds living things together. And the Force is strong with this theme.

1. “Star Wars Main Theme”

Anyone surprised by this number one pick? Well you shouldn’t be. It is of course the opening to the Star Wars films. This is arguably one of if not the most iconic opening themes in movie history. Even if you aren’t a fan of Star Wars, once you hear this theme you know where it’s from. I always get excited to hear this theme and when you first heard it in the theater again during Episode VII the whole place cheered. This to me is Star Wars, this is one of John Williams’ finest pieces of music he has ever written and will go down in history as such.

So how did I do? Did your favorite theme from the Star Wars saga make it on the list as well? Which John Williams theme from Star Wars is your favorite? Sound off in the comments below and let us know.

Top 10 John Williams Star Wars themes

In Defense of…Mirror, Mirror

The latest in a line of many I’ll be defending is Mirror, Mirror. The 2012 film by Tarsem Singh starred Lily Collins as Snow White, Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, and Armie Hammer as Prince Alcott.  It received one Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Costume Design. The budget was an estimated $85 million, but only grossed $65 million as of August 2012, and made only $18 million opening weekend, making the film an overall financial flop. It received the following ratings from critics:

IMDB: 5.6 out of 10
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
Metacritic: 46 (out of 100)

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Why Did Mirror Mirror Fail?

There are a few reasons why the film didn’t succeed. The first is the director, Tarsem Singh. I don’t put the blame on him. He didn’t destroy the movie. It’s rather his reputation, or lack thereof, that did it. He went overly ambitious with the film and when you don’t have the reputation to back it up, the flair can come off as trying too hard.  He had a vision that, at a different time, different place, different medium, would have worked.

The second reason is the thematic choices of the film.  It’s a whimsical fairy tale. In fact, the film is the epitome of whimsical. When you think of whimsy, you should think of this movie.  Now, that theme is incredible and difficult to do right (which it did), but it’s no longer the flavor of choice by audiences when it comes to film.  People want dark and dangerous. They really don’t want sweet and bright anymore (there are a few exceptions, more on that later). That is why the film Snow White and the Huntsman did so much better. Queen that sucks souls? Drunken Huntsman? Warrior Snow? Sign the rest of the country up.

It’s also very difficult for anyone to wedge their place in the world of fairy tale cinema since Disney practically owns it. It’s most likely that any fairy tale based film that is not done by Disney will fail as long as Disney continues to remake their animated films into live action. Their movies are magical and bright and fulfill the all the fantastical elements that a movie audience can take each year. Why would we want anything else?

Where Mirror Mirror Succeeded

The number one thing this movie is recognized for is its costume design.  Bringing a new take on the visual perspective of the fairy tale, Mirror Mirror perfectly reflected the director’s overall desired image. The gorgeous blue dress that Snow White wears at the end is absolutely to die for. And Julia Roberts is stunning in everything, as usual.

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The humor in the movie was also a highlight for me. With every other film being dark and gritty, the lightheartedness of the film was refreshing. Better yet, it seemed to come naturally from the actors. You just knew they had fun filming this. My favorite had to have been when the Evil Queen gave Prince Alcott a love potion, but it was puppy love. For the next 20 minutes, Armie Hammer has to play a “dog” and it’s 100% hilarious without being over the top.

Speaking of the actors, they were absolutely fantastic. Each brought something fun to their respective characters. But the dwarves…the dwarves were phenomenal. In a bold decision, Singh cast actual dwarves in the roles and not only gave them different personalities (I know that sounds like an easy thing to do, but you’d be surprised), but each were treated as main characters and given a chance to develop on their own.

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The story itself was impressive as a whole. The Snow White tale has been interpreted and reinterpreted for hundreds of years now, and I always appreciate something new.  The story doesn’t play out the way you think it will, so surprises are always right around the corner. It manages to be familiar without being predictable.

Why You Should Give Mirror Mirror a Second Chance

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For me, this was a very enjoyable film and one of my favorite Snow White stories based on the whimsical nature, visual spectacle, and outstanding casting choices. With so many fairy tale adaptations out there, this film stood out from the pack. If you want the dark and gritty fairy tale, then this may not be for you. But if you want a good laugh and witness some sweet moments, you’ll love this one too.

In Defense of…Mirror, Mirror

Independence Day: Resurgence – Spoiler-Free Review

It’s been 20 years since the original Independence Day attack our movie theaters. The original film was fun, intense, and a little over the top, true to a 90s action film. Bill Pullman’s presidential speech has held up as one for the ages. Over the years, we’ve heard talks of a sequel but it never seemed to happen. By the 10 year anniversary, I was fairly certain we’d never see a sequel, no returning mothership, no adventure into space, nothing. I guess I just didn’t wait long enough.

My girlfriend probably said it best: “Roland Emmerich Roland Emmerichs all over this Roland Emmerich film.” There’s no question whose film this is and whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is up to you. I’ll provide my thoughts in this spoiler-free review but keep in mind that I’ll be noting things that do appear in the trailers and perhaps a couple of things noted in interviews.

Independence Day: Resurgence takes place 20 years after the first film in an alternate future where the events of The War of 96 actually happened. We’ve had alien ships laying around we could take apart and reverse engineer to help advance our technology. This movie does not exist in our 2016 but instead in a 2016 where the world has come together as one, where new technologies have lifted our civilization to two decades of peace. In the meantime, we’ve been preparing in case our enemy ever return. Well, if you can’t tell from the poster alone, they do come back and this time with a MUCH bigger ship.

Independence Day: Resurgence – Cast

The cast is real hit and miss. We have some great returning cast members including Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Vivica A. Fox. How much these Independence Day veterans play into the story varies but I will say that I really enjoyed Judd Hirsch’s story even though it’s a little tangential to the overall plot. Bill Pullman has a solid role as well and one that lives up to what I hoped it would. His story was worth the wait, in my opinion. Jeff Goldblum can easily be considered a co-star or supporting actor. He’s in most of the film and has an integral part in the story and the future that’s come to be. Brent Spiner, for those who didn’t know from interviews, returns. His character was never confirmed dead and instead has been in a coma for 20 years.

Independence Day Resurgence Poster

The new cast includes Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, and Maika Monroe. Monroe plays Patricia Whitmore, the President’s little girl from the first film all grown up. Monroe does a fine job but I’m unclear as to why they recast Patricia’s character and didn’t bring back Mae Whitman who still acts. People I’ve spoken to believe it’s a physical attractiveness issue since her character plays the love interest of Hemsworth and Mae Whitman is a lot shorter than Monroe. Either way, it’s fine. Monroe does a fine job but at the end of the day, her character is more intended to push the stories of her father (Bill Pullman), her love interest (Hemsworth), and her best friend (Usher). Speaking of Usher, he plays Dylan Hiller, son of Vivica A. Fox’s character and step-son of Will Smith’s character from the first film. As most know, Will Smith did not return for the sequel. Reasons why vary but in order to handle that in the film, they had to kill off the character, something that’s addressed quickly in Independence Day: Resurgence but it needed to be done. Usher plays an ace pilot like his father who is still friends with Patricia Whitmore from the first film. Usher does a solid job and I’d like to see him in more. I hope this movie gets him some additional roles that are more high profile than When the Game Stands Tall or G.I. Joe: Renegades. Finally, we have Liam Hemsworth. I think it’s painfully clear that his character Jake Morrison was originally intended to be Will Smith’s character but it was rewritten when Smith couldn’t\didn’t return. Much of what Morrison does fits the bill for Steven Hiller (Will Smith) in not only tone and style but in consistency with characters from the first movie. With that in mind, Liam Hemsworth can’t live up to Will Smith and that hole is noticeable.

Independence Day Resurgence - Jeff Goldblum and Brent Spiner

Other cast include an incredibly underused Angelababy (whose real name is Angela Yeung Wing). She plays Rain Lao, another pilot who represents China, one of the main powers to help build this new world. When she is involved, she’s great, but she is pushed to the side most of the time to give screen time to Hemsworth and Usher. It’s unfortunate as she is one of only two Asian characters in the film and only one of three females. Lastly, there’s Deobia Oparei who plays a Warlord named Dikembe Umbutu. The story of him and his people is very cool and I’d like to watch a miniseries or movie just about their experiences. Unfortunately, his character is paired with the comic relief and is used as a balance to that for much of the film. His power and presence, like Angelababy’s, is wasted in a movie trying to spotlight Hemsworth and Usher while still providing enough screen time for the returning cast members.

Independence Day: Resurgence – Story

The story is fine. It’s an easy progression from the first film and doesn’t really surprise much if at all. It’s a little formulaic but it is Independence Day and if you expected some high level psychological masterpiece, you’ll be disappointed. The pacing is very similar to the original film with a few twists and the end of the movie definitely takes a different direction from the original. It’s hard not to compare and I know I’ve done that a lot here but the movie tries the multiple story concept the first did and it just doesn’t do it as well. At the end of the day, it’s an alien invasion film. The part I really don’t care for is the over the top nature of the new ship. It’s massive. Completely massive. So massive that it broke  the immersion for me. I love sci-fi and give a lot of passes to such films, trying not to question the real scientific nature of what’s going on because it’s just a movie but in this case I need Neil deGrasse Tyson to let me know if a ship that large could land on Earth without cause a lot more damage than it did.

Independence Day Resurgence Mothership

Independence Day: Resurgence – Special Effects

Okay, these are pretty good. The movie’s budget was significantly lower than other big block busters like Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War but I think overall, the special effects were better. There’s a lot going on with immense city destruction, buildings being thrown around, futuristic fighter jets, alien space craft, etc. and they all look really great. My girlfriend noted she didn’t care for some of the blue screen work but I honestly didn’t notice much outside of the big anniversary celebration scenes. Without spoiling anything, it’s clear that some things that were practical effects in the first are definitely CGI now. Some of those things look awesome in CGI and a few look a little more obvious.

Conclusions

I like the movie. As I said, it feels like an appropriate progression from the first and it opens up the possibility of an exciting sequel concept that I’m looking forward to. I loved what they did with most of the veteran actors who returned and I enjoyed the new universe they built. The alternate 2016 is awesome and I really appreciate that there were major effects of The War of 96. The special effects are solid overall even if some are over the top. It is a disaster movie in the end. Independence Day: Resurgence takes itself more seriously than the original but does not leave humor out. I mean, how can you with Jeff Goldblum and Brent Spiner on the cast? And even though Bill Pullman gets another speech, it just can’t compare to the original.

Independence Day President Speech

What did you think of Independence Day: Resurgence? Comment below!

Independence Day: Resurgence – Spoiler-Free Review

Official Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines Aim at Current Projects

For those who know me, I’m a Trekkie. I’m The Star Trek Dude on Twitter and Facebook and I do tend to bring in Trek examples more often than I probably should. That’s why this issue is near and dear to my heart. On Thursday, June 23rd, Paramount and CBS announced via StarTrek.com the first official Star Trek fan film guidelines. Of course, I jumped on quickly to review these and see what the situation was. Now, I was feeling very optimistic after everything Justin Lin (Director of Star Trek Beyond) and J.J. Abrams had said specifically about fan films and the Axanar lawsuit. Unfortunately, my mood has since changed.

For a full explanation of these guidelines, please check them out here but I’m to highlight a few and talk about my thoughts.

Analyzing the Guidelines

I don’t hate all of these guidelines. Some make perfect sense like:

2. The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.

I totally get it. They want everyone to know exactly what is and is not a fan production. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, about this one. It’s straight forward and reasonable. The very next point is just as reasonable:

3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.

Again, yes, we don’t want fan films literally ripping off content from licensed official episodes, movies, etc.

If the rest were like this, I wouldn’t even need to write an article but things just blow up. Let’s start with the very first point:

1. The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

Out of the gate this means that Star Trek Continues is basically dead in the water. They produce nearly hour long episodes following ongoing missions of The Original Series Enterprise and crew under Kirk’s command. Each episode would break this rule not to mention every other fan film that is well over 30 minutes in length like Of Gods and Men and Renegades. In fact, Prelude to Axanar is over the 15 minute mark and would need to be broken into two just to fit this very rule. The short segments could be dealt with in a serialized web format much like Red vs Blue or something to that affect BUT “no more than 2 segments” and “with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.” That means you get 30 minutes to tell your story with your characters and then they are gone forever. I don’t know about you but one of the things I loved about Trek in the 90s was how characters’ lives continued. They grew older, got promoted, and showed up on different shows. It was a connected and evolving universe. Fan films can kiss this goodbye.

4. If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.

That point focuses on props and costumes. Now, if I’m understanding this one wrong, let me know. It sounds to me like fan films that use existing styles (i.e. uniform designs from TV series or movies, props from the same) they must use officially licensed products. Does this mean fan films can make their own? What about costumes made from officially licensed costume patterns? And how is this going to be enforced? This one is tough and a little nebulous to me, so I’ll move on.

The big one I want to talk about is #5 which focuses on the actors and crew allowed involvement in fan films.

5. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.

So this means that ANYONE who has ever worked on Trek in any official capacity or any other CBS or Paramount product cannot legally be involved in a fan film. No one. No actors, lighting guys, DVD art designers, maker of t-shirts. Even a person who does graphic design work for Star Trek Online said he has to drop off a fan films he was planning to work on. This immediately means that Star Trek: Renegades and their upcoming project Requiem is a no-go from the start since it includes legacy actors like Walter Koenig, Tim Russ, and Robert Picardo just to name a few. It also means that anyone who might have helped with ship design back in the 90s is a no-go too.

What does this mean?

From my perspective it’s simple. This is a direct reaction to the events around Axanar, its lawsuit, and the other popular fan productions, specifically Star Trek Continues and Star Trek: Renegades. Paramount and CBS have a new movie and TV on the horizon. While we don’t know the details on the show, we know that Beyond continues the JJ-verse with Kirk and company. Meanwhile, the fan productions focus on the Prime universe in the old TV show era, before that, and in the future after Nemesis. These things don’t clash yet Paramount and CBS seem to take issue with them. Now, maybe this is more personal and just about Axanar or maybe it’s less personal and it’s about all fan films. I don’t know but I can say that these new guidelines appear to take aim at the big three.

As a lifelong fan, I’m disappointed. I love Star Trek and I enjoy the fan productions. They get me through the empty time Paramount and CBS have left in addition to telling stories those companies have no interest in telling. The fact that everything is coming to a head on the 50th anniversary of the franchise is both disappointing and disheartening. For us fans, it was supposed to be a year of celebration and excitement. Instead, there is a lot of tense, hurt feelings, and distrust.

Since the news is still young, I’m curious to see what these fan films have to say in addition to others I have not mentioned. In fact, we’ve published at least five other articles about Star Trek fan films. Check them out below to see some of what we might be missing with these new guidelines.

Star Trek Horizon

Star Trek Progeny

Star Trek Renegades

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Axanar

What do you think of the new fan film guidelines? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter @griddaily!

Official Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines Aim at Current Projects

In Defense of…Warcraft

In my latest column, I’ll be defending movies that were not received well, did lousy at the box office, critically panned, or altogether forgotten about. Most of them will, probably, be fairy tale movies. You’ve been forewarned.

The first film I plan on tackling is one that is still in theaters. You may have heard of Warcraft by now. But you may have not.  The current film is directed by Duncan Jones (Moon) and stars Travis Fimmel as Lothar, Paula Patton as Garona, and Ben Foster as Medivh.  The budget was an estimated $160M and has since made only $38M back domestically. However, international box office numbers take the total gross to over $308M, making it the most profitable video game film to date.  It has received the following ratings:

IMDB: 7.6 out of 10
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Metacritic: 32 (out of 100)

Why Warcraft is failing (at least in the US)?

Warcraft and it’s numerous successors, including industry giant World of Warcraft have been pinnacle in PC gaming.  Over the years, they have transformed gaming into what it is today, creating rich characters, backgrounds, and mythologies as well as stunning visuals.  That’s not what American cinema is used to, though.  It’s not always looking for a bigger picture, which is just what Warcraft is doing.  If Blizzard was interested in making only one film, the story would have been much more concise and linear. Certain characters would have fallen in love while others would have lived to see the end.  Since Warcraft is trying to build a cinematic world and not a one-time cinematic experience, they’re thinking of movies 2-6 here instead. American cinema is often short sighted and the universe building doesn’t plan for the future past the next film (Marvel is guilty of this).

Warcraft - Garona

That’s not the only reason why the film isn’t doing exactly well, either. While sitting in the movie, I had no idea what was going on. The movie assumes that you either already know the backstory to Warcraft or that you’ll pick it up eventually. For me, it was latter. It took awhile to figure out certain characters or be invested in the plot, but it got me there.  I don’t feel like it’s such a stretch if American audiences didn’t immediately cling on to it because of the aforementioned reasons.

Where Warcraft Succeeded

Warcraft - Lothar and Khadgar

Warcraft is visually stunning if nothing else. The technology used to portray the world of Azeroth is absolutely incredible. At no point does something look “off” or as if they cut corners at any time.  Because of this, it’s easy to get sucked in. If you’re not worried about why this effect didn’t match this one from earlier, you’re more willing to grab on to the rest of the story and Warcraft’s consistency assists in this.

The acting was outstanding as well. With fantasy films that have a niche following, it can be difficult to bring in outsiders who care and understand the world as much as the original creators do and the fans that have grown it. Yet Warcraft did a superb job of bringing in actors who would care just as much about the subject matter as the others involved. Ben Foster was perfectly cast as Medivh, slipping seamlessly into the role so that I hardly recognized him. Paula Patton was a beautifully tragic Garona, successfully splitting her character between two worlds. Considering most of the time the actors were talking to tennis balls and MOKAP suits, I’m pleased with how much depth each person was able to bring into their stories.

Why You Should Give it A Chance

The movie is fun. It’s a great beginning to, what I hope, will be a continuous adventure. Within a few minutes, I felt captivated to learn more, and by the end, all I wanted was for the story to continue.  I was never into Warcraft before, but now I have no choice but to continue to feed that new interest of mine. I want to know the stories of Lothar, Garona, and Khadgar.  I want to read the books, play the games, and see more stories on the big screen. And that, is the point of any new series: draw in new fans to love what so many others do already.

Catch the latest TV spot below and find out more at WarcraftMovie.com.

Do you agree with my assessment? Do you have other thoughts? Comment below or our on Facebook page!

In Defense of…Warcraft

MCU Ranking – Where Does Civil War Land?

It’s become a running tradition to rank the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with us. We began with Avengers: Age of Ultron, continued with Ant-Man, and now we’re adding Captain America: Civil War to that list. We’ve had some people agree and disagree with us, but have stuck by our rankings. The release of Civil War has dominated the box office and have left fans mixed (you can check out our Civil War review here) and now the time has come for it to take its place among our ranked films.

If you missed our list prior to Civil War, here it is (you can see the full article here):

12. Iron Man 2
11. Incredible Hulk
10. Iron Man 3
9. Thor: The Dark World
8. Captain America: The First Avenger
7. Thor
6. Avengers: Age of Ultron
5. Ant-Man
4. Iron Man
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
1. Avengers

MCU Ranking – A Grid Daily Civil War

Captain America: Civil War Cap v Iron Man

This was an incredibly difficult choice that none of us really wanted to make. Talk to a Grid Daily contributor and their ranking will be different. The consensus,though? Captain America: Civil War nudges out everything to become the number 1 MCU film to date.  Before I go on, let me tell you just how split we are on this, but majority rules.

The movie captured the essence of the Civil War storyline in the comics: these superheroes are a powder keg, or as Hulk so eloquently put it, a time bomb.  You can’t have 10 people with extreme powers and personalities and emotions running that high without creating irresponsible and destructive results. The addition of Civil War to the MCU was an inevitability. These characters, by no means, should always get along. The truth in the film is where it succeeds.

Along with the story line, the movie did its side characters very well. Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Black Panther shined. Spider-Man and Ant-Man were incredible spectacles adding to the visual empowerment of the film. Falcon and War Machine were the perfect right hand men, portraying loyal friends to the men they cared about, never wavering their allegiances.

The difficulty of the film lies in Captain America and Iron Man. It’s difficult to see our favorite heroes be so blinded by their own perspectives. To quote a friend, “Captain America did the wrong thing for the right reason and Iron Man did the right thing for the wrong reason.” It’s painful to watch your heroes fall, which is where the Grid Daily group splits.Captain America: Civil War Banner

Overall ranking: 13 awesome fight scenes you didn’t see coming

So here is our updated list:

13. Iron Man 2
12. Incredible Hulk
11. Iron Man 3
10. Thor: The Dark World
9. Captain America: The First Avenger
8. Thor
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron
6. Ant-Man
5. Iron Man
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
2. The Avengers
1. Captain America: Civil War

How do you feel about our list? Where would you rank Civil War? Special thanks to our friend John Holloway from Worst Comic Podcast Ever for the awesome quote.

MCU Ranking – Where Does Civil War Land?

Resident Evil 7 Playable Trailer – Who’s it for?

The first trailer for Resident Evil 7 dropped on 06/13/2016, showing a ton of new dynamics that only touch the tip of the iceberg of what we can expect from the franchise’s newest installment. Sony in partner with Capcom sweetened the deal by offering PSN members an exclusive playable trailer, much like what Konami did with failed project Silent Hills.

First impression – This trailer is terrifying, and the playable portions are incredibly good, however you can’t help asking yourself “why is this called Resident Evil, again?”. This game is not what Resident Evil fans would expect from the seventh installment of the franchise.

Here’s why:
1. It’s not third-person – since the very first Resident Evil game was released in 1996 the franchise has always been third-person.
2. There is no direct references to Resident Evil known characters or story lines (there was a picture of a helicopter that had an Umbrella symbol, and its speculated that the woman’s voice is Ada).
3. Resident Evil 6 was left open – At the very end of Jake’s campaign there are heavy implications that his story will continue.
4. Resident Evil has always been about Bio Terrorism – this playable trailer appeared to be an isolated supernatural occurrence (ghostly girl who randomly appears and disappears, creepy mannequins, isolated story on a family murder in Louisiana).

With all that aside, the actual game itself is intriguing offering everything a fan of the horror genre can ask for; including scary set pieces, various puzzles with hidden doors, and the overall tone set by the first person view. Resident Evil 7 is coming to PlayStation VR this year and will be fully playable inside the VR headset from beginning to end. I spent a good 2 hours exploring the many secrets to be unlocked, including alternative endings that are strictly based on the order in which you find items. As previously stated, there’s likely many more secrets left to be discovered, much like the Silent Hills playable teaser which took days, weeks, or even months for players to solve all the puzzles.

As a long time Resident Evil fan, you can trust me when I say this wasn’t Resident Evil. I can’t help but think Capcom wants to cash in on all the attention that Silent Hills received. It was a great beginning to a standalone horror game that felt like what Silent Hills could have been. Needless to say, this was just a demo and there is a strong possibility that Capcom can still redeem themselves and surprise us all.

Resident Evil 7 will be available on January 24th, 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, and Xbox One.

Take a look at the trailer from the official YouTube page here:

Resident Evil 7 Playable Trailer – Who’s it for?